Be happy. It's one way of being wise.

~ Sidonie Gabrielle Colette ~

What is Happiness? How About This?

July 10th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 12 secs

What is happiness really?

Ask “What is happiness?” and you’ll get all sorts of explanations. Some are based on research, and others, plain here say. But when it comes to your happiness, what really matters is how you are going to realize it.

Think for a moment about those greeting cards that say things like:

  • “Happiness is a little puppy quivering in your arms”
  • “Happiness is enjoying a lazy Sunday in the sun, without a care in the world.”
  • “What is happiness? It’s knowing you always there for me”, or,
  • “Happiness is being warmly welcomed in from the cold and made to feel at home.”

And you know what? There is something in those messages that actually makes sense. Happiness comes through all kinds of events and perceptions. But one thing remains the same: it always makes you feel better in your self.

Now research is trying to suggest that half of our capacity for happiness is genetically decided. But, to me, such measures makes little sense, and here’s why…

Ask “What is happiness?” and it’s inevitable. You are going to get a generalized answer. Why? Well everyone has their own unique version of happiness, according to them. True, some actually do seem naturally upbeat (which could fit the genetic measure). Yet others declare happiness is totally experiential. If they feel good, they’re happy. If not, they’re sad. Simple. This kind of “keep the party going” view of being happy is easy to see and label as happiness. But if that’s all there is, then happiness is a fickle beast indeed.

I don’t mean to dismiss happy time happiness or natural buoyancy, but there is a lot more to happiness if it’s built on satisfaction. Finding fulfillment in your relationships, faith, work, sports, or community involvement has the added value of bringing something far more pleasing: a lasting sense of happiness. You can have up and down days, tough times, and delightful times – all within the framework of knowing that what you do counts and that there is something  good to live for.

The ancient Greeks considered happiness a form of wellbeing, governed by clear thinking and meaning. Calling it eudaimonia, they saw happiness as a way of thoughtfully living. Viewed like this, your fluctuating mood state is much less an issue than the way you choose to live. Your genetic makeup might have a strong bearing on whether you are outgoing or introverted, cheery by nature or slightly somber.  But it has nothing to say about the way you make your life satisfyingly purposeful and think with wisdom.

So, am I being cheeky if I say nobody can completely answer the “What is happiness?” question? Many would like to claim theirs is the only valid answer. But, haven’t we heard that kind of talk before? Everybody experiences happiness through the lense of their own experience.  So it makes sense to question everything (and for that matter, even me too) to decide whether it makes sense to you.

What is happiness? Well, I’d rather rephrase the question to say, “What is happiness to you?” The moment you pose it, you realize it’s a question only one person can truly answer.



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